Nothing to Steal

My husband and I travel a lot, and people sometimes ask us if we worry about our apartment while we’re gone. Our answer: not particularly. The reason: we have nothing to steal.

Sure, we have stuffclothing, kitchenware, books, and a few pieces of furniture. However, I can’t imagine anyone wanting any of it. And if they need it so badly that they have to steal it, they probably need it more than we do.

Anything we have of valuelike our iPods, cell phones, cash, and wedding ringsis almost always with us.

The only thing I’d even come close to “worrying about” is my laptop. However, it’s old enough to have little street value, and heavy enough to be unappealing to most thieves. I’d be more irritated to have to reconstruct its contents (which I could, from backups) than upset about its loss.

In fact, if it weren’t for personal safety issues (or having to evict a squatter that moves in in our absence), we could just as well leave the door unlocked.

Nine years ago, the apartment in which we were living was burglarized. The thief went through a tremendous effort to break down the door (actually tearing apart the jamb), and I love to imagine the look on his face when he saw this:


Our minimalist apartment, circa 2001 (living room on left, bedroom on right)

(And before anyone feels compelled to criticize our aesthetics, please remember that this was nine years agowe were young, broke, and thought fairy lights were the ultimate in home décor. Our tastes have become a little more sophisticated since then; though admittedly, I still love fairy lights!)

Ok, back to the robbery. Now I know your typical thief isn’t exactly a rocket scientist, but you’d think that anyone seeing those two rooms would decide not to waste their time.

Not our thief. Undeterred, he ransacked every closet and drawer, optimistic that he’d find the treasure we’d surely hidden away.

His take: a portable CD player, an empty purse, a lipstick (!), and a ziplock bag of Canadian coins. When I think back on the incident, I still picture a cross-dressing burglar, jamming to some tunes, heading north to spend approximately three dollars of Canadian money.

When I returned home to find the mess, I called the police immediately, as I was afraid the robber might still be on the premises. An officer showed up a few minutes later. He looked around the apartment, eyes wide, and said, “Wow, he really wiped you out.” I couldn’t help but laugh as I rattled off the four missing items. He looked at me incredulously: “Are you sure that’s all he took?”

“Yes, officer. I’m sure.”

“Okay…” he replied, still not sure whether to believe me—but he seemed pretty happy that the police report only took a few minutes to fill out.

People say that a home burglary can be a devastating experience; but for us, life went on as usual. If it happened again today, I’d feel the same—as long as I’m not home at the time, I really don’t care what anyone takes. It’s just another great benefit of being a minimalist: the fewer your things (and the less attached you are to them), the fewer your worries.

Moral of the story #1: If you’re living a life of crime, don’t bother to rob a minimalist.

Moral of the story #2: Life is much easier when you have nothing to steal.

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141 comments to Nothing to Steal

  • I truly love this story! This sort of thing is what I aspire to.

  • GreyQueen

    LOL, loved the story of the burglar. I’ve always joked that if anyone was foolish enough to burgle me they’d be v.disappointed. 10 y.o desktop PC? Shell jewellery? Thrift store furniture? The would-be robber would probably feel pity and leave me a donation!

    • Diane

      As you can tell from the date, I’m finally gotten to reading this story. Your comment made me laugh quite a bit as I too have nothing of value to steal. However, since I eat only fresh foods (which means all my groceries are in the fridge and the cupboards are bare), my burglar would probably leave me food stamps rather than a donation :)

  • Patrycja

    “I love to imagine the look on his face when he saw this”- so am I.
    And I agree with GreyQueen- “The would-be robber would probably feel pity and leave me a donation!”

  • Lisa

    I laughed out loud at imagining the face of the determined burglar. By any stretch, stealing someone’s partially used lipstick …is just sad! My husband’s car philosophy matches this: “Drive a well maintained, but aging, basic Toyota, and you are less of a target.” We never worry about our cars in parking lots or in cities.
    Keep up the great work. Your book is my inspiration.

  • Tamika

    Thank you for having the BEST Minimalist blog ever! Other sites are way too serious. Thanks for making the minimalist lifestyle seem achieveable and most importantly FUN! I loved the story, it made me LOL and I absolutely love your new book!

  • Wrytoasts

    I’m at work and laughing so loud, reading this… love it, love it, love it. You are such an inspiration. In the few short weeks since I discovered your blog, my life has changed so much and definitely for the better. I’ve wanted to be a minimalist for a long time and I didn’t even know it!

  • I was in Walmart last year waiting in the checkout line. This 5 year oldish kid was screaming and screaming, all red faced, yelling “I want it”. I looked at the guy next to me and said” I can’t imagine anything in this store I’d want so much to be THAT upset over” The guy looked at me like he didn’t get it either( why such a fit?) . What is motivating such desire in kids anymore? Love your blog

  • Lorna

    Even a year later, this is still my favorite story on your site!

  • Caretaker

    Thank you. Your delightful stories keep minimalism fun (contrary to what critiques of minimalism say). Who wouldn’t laugh at this storyy?! Also, amongst all the blogs, yours stays fresh and interesting. Other minimalism blogs tend to bash others’ paths to minimalism.

  • […] If a natural disaster affects their home or belongings, minimalists might find it easier to cope with those material losses than someone whose identity was tied up in their stuff. (This benefit inspired by Miss Minimalist’s post about being burglarized). […]

  • Jen

    I just had to get renter’s insurance because I am divorcing and moving out of a house. I put the value of my things at $30k, but really I bet I could replace all of my kids and my stuff for about $10k, including clothes, shoes, beds, TV, computer and everything else. I figure though, since I got everything at thrift stores it would take time and all the dollar clothes I got for my kids wouldn’t be replaceable at that price! I feel pretty secure though, not having a lot.

  • I have similar feeling about home and car. My car actually was “broken into” meaning the kids opened the unlocked door. Interestingly enough there was not anything they took! No expensive stereo, no electronics, etc. Just some burned CDs and stuff for my horse. Other then the open door leaving the dome light on- no harm done.

  • […] If a natural disaster affects their home or belongings, minimalists might find it easier to cope with those material losses than someone whose identity was tied up in their stuff. (This benefit inspired by Miss Minimalist’s post about being burglarized). […]

  • Lola

    Although I’m not a minimalist (yet), my philosophy is that I don’t want to own anything I would feel the need to run back in and save if my house was on fire. No emotional attatchments here!

  • karmin

    I’m the same way. In my condo community there was a robbery and it got me thinking..what would a robber steal from me? I have a laptop but it is 5 years old-that is a dinosaur in the tech world. I also have an ipod from the 90’s and I vitamixer and a big box TV which is out of style compared to the thin TVs. I put a lot of money into upgrading my place but that consist of stainless steel appliances, new ceramic floors and facet fixtures. Well good luck stealing those.

    • kat

      I heard of this happening! Someone upgraded their kitchen hoping to get a better price when house sold – when didn’t, used a box truck and ripped out the entire kitchen – all the Italian marble tiles, granite counters, high end appliances, etc. This was in Reston, VA, just West of Washington, DC, basically an expensive neighborhood.

  • […] It’s practically impossible. I can rattle off almost everything I own, and exactly where it is. (When our apartment was robbed many years ago, I was able to give the police officer an inventory of the stolen items within […]

  • CJ

    Hilarious! My in-laws were robbed once. They lost an engagement ring, some of their daughter’s CDs, and a tin of biscuits. They were really mad, too!

    My aunt got robbed many years ago and when the cops showed up, the phoned in to headquarters and said the place had been “really ransacked,” although her place was just really messy.

  • Kat

    I would hate to lose my pro camera gear (my livelihood), but it is insured, and my desktop pc just because of all the personal/financial info on there, but it is all backed up. Yes there are a few other things worth stealing, but nothing that would devastate me as long as they didn’t take my daughter’s much-loved and needed blankie, I’m sure life could go on rather easily. It would be an inconvenience to replace things, but no big deal really. Although we’re nowhere near as minimalist as you, I’ve gotten past my attachment to most of our things and keep working on clearing out more of it.

  • Mrs Brady Old Lady

    Keep going back to this, really love it, and it’s so re-assuring!
    I got burgled years ago too – all the burglar(s) took were my foreign currency (Dutch guilders, French Francs etc, these were pre-Euro days), and nothing else! I was quite cross about that. My stuff not good enough to steal????

  • […] it–except for the scanned photos going back four generations–would be replaceable. And losing it definitely wouldn’t be the worst thing in the […]

  • EmilyStrange

    My backpack got stolen at school because it looked new and was a popular surf brand (it was my first one, a Christmas present). Some kids nicked it during sports day, probably looking for CD player or mobile phone or wallet. But I had none of that stuff. All they got was less than $2 bucks and the actual bag. I was only worried that I’d lost my school notes — but some nice resident found the books dumped in the park across the street. So in the end, the thieves got almost nothing and I got back everything I cared about ;).

  • Lydia

    Our home was broken into once many years ago. And while we had a lot more than you did in your apartment, we didn’t have anything “worth” stealing. Basically, we were poor. So, what did they steal? The meat from our freezer and items from our refrigerator. Thank God for my husband’s employer who blessed us with $100 to replace our groceries.

  • Dante Iscariot

    I absolutely adore this story, and smile whenever I read or think about it. I almost want to thank the burglar for causing so much amusement to us all (the shock of being burgled aside, that must suck regardless of how little was taken :s)

  • I couldn’t help a smile at this article. I often think the same thing. If a burglar came into my house he’d get a shock – no 50″ TV, no DVD, Blu-ray, no expensive phones. I do have a work laptop – everything is backed up in the cloud – photos, documents etc. If it got stolen it’s not even mine and the company is covered. I have a few pieces of furniture, an old printer. That’s about it. There’s almost nothing of value in my house. Mostly when I’m out my laptop is with me. Frankly, if the burglar stole anything, I’d probably be glad to get rid of it – saves me taking it to the charity shop! ;)

  • I love your blog! it’s perfect ! And you are right. the less items you own, the less feeling of attachment.. I am a new bie minimalist.. your teachings will benefit me and my family a lot!

  • kt

    i just love imagining the policeman’s face and wondering why you had so little.
    i don’t have contents insurance because everywhere seems to require you to insure for at least £15k. i’m sure 2-3k would replace most of my stuff more than satisfactorily (bar my flute which is insured separately).

  • […] Nothing to steal by Francine Jay Share this:FacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tags: clean home, clutter, decluttering, souvenirs Follow Blog via Email […]

  • Jeffrey

    LOL’ed at the “Wow, he really wiped you out.” Wonder what he would have though of my old place. I didn’t even a real couch; futon on the floor covered with cloth and throw pillows on top. I never even used the dead-bolt in most all my apartments. I figured if someone really wanted to get in, they’d find a way. One of the bonuses of living without a ton of crap is you don’t really worry about theft, at least I don’t.

  • Hilarious! Thanks for sharing :)

  • :) you’re seriously my new mentor and role model.

  • When I saw your photos I thought “how cool that they put the twinkling lights up!”. LOL :)

  • Ashraf

    What an unfortunate thief ! :)

  • Vee G

    Totally enjoyed this article. My apartment was broken into back in the70s in a small town apartment complex. None of my meager belongings were touched. My roommate has some good jewelry and love letters stolen. We lived in a first floor garden apartment. They broke into the dining area’s window. The cop chuckled and figured it was kids since I’d left my bedroom window.
    I left my husband last year & now live in a senior complex with key cards. My neighbors have aides & family stomping through all times of day and night. I have a stick on the door at night and alarms on the windows. Yup i am on the first floor again. Everything I own is plain sight. I really would hate to clean up a mess.

  • […] Miss Minimalist captures exactly how I would want to feel if I were ever to get robbed in this post. […]

  • Tom

    Best article on minimalism ever!

  • Lindsey

    I find it interesting that your first thought was a cross-dressing burglar rather than a female burglar. Not all thiefs are male.

  • […] Jay once had her house burglarized while she & her husband were away, and because there was literally nothing expensive around, the […]

  • Teresa

    Love the moral of the story! Too funny and true.

  • Tina

    I’ve read your story so many times and I really enjoy it. My husband had parked his car unlocked, though and someone threw a lighted cigarette onto the back seat, causing a fire. I would miss the pictures of my grandchildren but they are replaceable.
    Probably the pictures of my great-grandparents would be what I’d miss. There’s nothing fabulous here, either. Rings are on my fingers.

  • Beautifully put. “Life is much easier when you have nothing to steal.”
    I have an aunt who gave out all her material possessions to her younger nieces and nephews. She said I am getting old, why do I need all this money and land. She said in the end I will be buried in a small hole. Let me fill that hole with happiness and joy of other younger people.
    That really touched me.
    It is as if she was saying: if someone chooses not to be minimal now, they will be forced to be minimal once they die.

    • mrs Brady Old Lady

      That is beautiful. I am not a grandmother nor about to die (hopefully) but am trying to find a good home for most of my possesions already. I’m not here yet but also aim for “nothing to steal”.

  • Jo-Anne

    I remember reading a Stuart Wilde book years ago and one thing I always remember…if you get robbed just say “Oh! They’ve come for the TV! OK, I have time to meditate now.”

  • […] steal from others. We steal because we have been programmed to believe we need unneeded things. The minimalist does not steal because they have learned the difference between needs and wants. We only have a handful of true […]

  • Dylan

    Years ago when I was in college in Berkeley and living a fairly cluttered life in a small apartment (okay more than “fairly” cluttered), my place was broken into, and when the cops arrived, one of them said, “my god, they ransacked the place!” I didn’t dare tell him that is what it looked like BEFORE being robbed.

  • Marissa

    I’m finally getting around to commenting to this. xD

    Yes, I agree. There is no point in robbing a minimalist. We simply don”t have a lot of stuff! xD If I lived in my own place and I were robbed, only like 3-6 things out of my stuff would probably be taken; unless the theif liked Japanese comic books, lol. Then I guess those would be stolen as well. But since I only read my comic books once all the way through most of the time, they just sit on my book shelf every day not moving. If they suddenly went POOF someday, I would just keep collecting the novels I haven’t read yet. No problems there. xD

  • This is great! I did leave a couch out for Salvation to pick up once. They came, took a look, left a note saying “this is too old for us, we don’t accept furniture this old,” and left. Wow.

    I wonder if the thieves would take my cuisinart coffee pot or my photos? I am a bit attached to those, but that’s about it.

  • Dan

    Best part of this story? I was able to download the photos of the two rooms, blow them up and tape them to the inside of my windows. Burglars looking in will see I’m a “minimalist” (which I am anyway) and maybe go next door to do their burgle.

  • Read this like 6 years ago and still remember it again and again… just imagine the level of freedom one has when there is nothing to steal. Ultimate !

  • My daughter was robbed once and all they took was one tiny ring and a tube of toothpaste. I have some pictures I’d miss and some nice jewelry but nothing worth more than $100 to replace. It was mostly second hand. I can’t imagine a thief taking wooden beads or houseplants.

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